A New Theory of Industrial Relations: People, Markets and Organizations after Neoliberalism, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

A New Theory of Industrial Relations

People, Markets and Organizations after Neoliberalism, 1st Edition

By Conor Cradden


208 pages

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pub: 2017-12-05
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Most existing theoretical approaches to industrial relations and human resources management (IR/HRM) build their analyses and policy prescriptions on one of two foundational assumptions. They assume either that conflict between workers and employers is the natural and inevitable state of affairs; or that under normal circumstances, cooperation is what employers can and should expect from workers. By contrast, A New Theory of Industrial Relations: People, Markets and Organizations after Neoliberalism proposes a theoretical framework for IR/HRM that treats the existence of conflict or cooperation at work as an outcome that needs to be explained rather than an initial presupposition. By identifying the social and organizational roots of reasoned, positively chosen cooperation at work, this framework shows what is needed to construct a genuinely consensual form of capitalism. In broader terms, the book offers a critical theory of the governance of work under capitalism. ‘The governance of work’ refers to the structures of incentives and sanctions, authority, accountability and direct and representative participation within and beyond the workplace by which decisions about the content, conditions and remuneration of work are made, applied, challenged and revised.

The most basic proposition made in the book is that work will be consensual—and, hence, that employees will actively and willingly cooperate with the implementation of organizational plans and strategies—when the governance of work is substantively legitimate. Although stable configurations of economic and organizational structures are possible in the context of a bare procedural legitimacy, it is only where work relationships are recognized as right and just that positive forms of cooperation will occur. The analytic purpose of the theory is to specify the conditions under which substantive legitimacy will arise. Drawing in particular on the work of Alan Fox, Robert Cox and Jürgen Habermas, the book argues that whether workers fight against, tolerate or willingly accept the web of relationships that constitutes the organization depends on the interplay between three empirically variable factors: the objective day-to-day experience of incentives, constraints and obligations at work; the subjective understanding of work as a social relationship; and the formal institutional structure of policies, rules and practices by which relationships at work are governed.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Can Industrial Relations Save the World?

Chapter Two: Industrial Relations Policy: Conflict & Cooperation in the Governance of Work

Chapter Three: Industrial Relations Theory: From Industrial Democracy to the Web of Rules and Back Again

Chapter Four: System, Lifeworld and Points in Between

Chapter Five: Frames of Reference

Chapter Six: A New Theory of Industrial Relations

Chapter Seven: What Can We Do with NTIR? Implications for Research and Policy

About the Author

Conor Cradden is an independent researcher and consultant based in France. He works on industrial relations, the sociology of work and employment and international labour regulation. He is the author of two previous books, Repoliticizing Management: A Theory of Corporate Legitimacy (Ashgate, 2005) and Neoliberal Industrial Relations Policy in the UK: How the Labour Movement Lost the Argument (Palgrave, 2014).

About the Series

Routledge Research in Employment Relations

Aspects of the employment relationship are central to numerous courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Drawing from insights from industrial relations, human resource management and industrial sociology, this series provides an alternative source of research-based materials and texts, reviewing key developments in employment research. Books published in this series are works of high academic merit, drawn from a wide range of academic studies in the social sciences.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Human Resources & Personnel Management